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children-playingIn the last thirty years childhood obesity has more than doubled among U.S. children (ages 6–11) and quadrupled in adolescents (ages 12–19), putting American youth at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke as they grow older. Because September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, here are two new studies spotlighting the importance of promoting good nutrition and lifestyle habits—plus several links to smart and simple tips for raising healthy kids!

Little Couch Potatoes Grow Up to Be Big Couch Potatoes
Researchers at University College London recently wrapped up a decades-long study in which they found that children who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV tend to become adults who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV—a behavior known to contribute to obesity and obesity-related disease. After monitoring the viewing habits of more than 9,800 participants, they found that nearly 83 percent of 40-year-olds who watch more than three hours of TV daily had similar habits at age 10. This prompted experts to stress the importance of teaching kids about the benefits of physical activity for a healthy weight and overall wellness.

Learning to Like Certain Foods Starts Early
A new series of nutritional studies suggests childhood eating habits form during infancy, and parents should be aware that taste preferences for certain foods can take root even before little ones start walking. The combined results of more than 10 studies, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, show that eating patterns are set early in life—making it even more important for parents to promote healthy foods sooner rather than later. They recommend getting babies interested in fruit and vegetables by late infancy (between 10 and 12 months) and encourage parents to keep trying even when kids spit out certain foods, as repeated exposure often increases acceptance.

Parents and family members can check out our previous blogs for tips and advice on children’s health and nutrition:

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fat-food-labelsNowadays more and more Americans are reading the Nutrition Facts labels found on foods and beverages—but what if we weren’t getting the whole truth?

Even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working toward a label makeover to help provide consumers with more clarity about the foods they are eating, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that many processed foods claiming to be free of harmful trans fats actually are not.

CDC experts analyzed more than 4,300 popular packaged foods available in grocery stores and found that 9 percent of the food items contained trans fats even though 84 percent claimed they were either “trans fat-free” or contained “0 grams of trans fat.” The reason has to do with the fact that manufacturers are allowed to round down anything less than 0.5 g of trans fat, which means consumers may be eating the unhealthy fats even when they think they aren’t.

Despite their harmful effects on human health, trans fats can still be found in many commonly bought products—including pre-packaged snack foods such as cookies, crackers and chips, as well as in microwave popcorn, cake mixes and frostings, packaged pudding, pie crusts, pancake and waffle mixes, non-dairy creamer, margarine and many frozen foods (including frozen pizza).

Based on their findings, researchers believe that not only should health officials do a better job of restricting trans fats in food products, but that yes—food labels need to be much clearer when it comes to representing the true amount as well as the health risks associated with trans fats.

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